Minnesota’s race for governor: Only one issue matters

Energy is great. Health Care is important. Taxes matter. But the 2010 governor’s race has to be about jobs.

After my third consecutive Inter-City Leadership visit with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Chambers of Commerce, this year to Charlotte, N.C., it is more apparent than ever that the candidate for Minnesota governor in 2010 who articulates the biggest vision for jobs will win.

It can’t be a talking point in the same sentence as energy, health care and taxes. It has to set the candidate apart from anything Minnesota has heard.

If the sobering demographic trends recited regularly by Tom Gillaspy, our state demographer, and Tom Stinson, our state economist, share about our aging population and need for a future workforce aren’t enough, the idea that solutions to those problems can win an election should be motivating.

Governor Goofy
Consider that Charlotte, a place that 20 years ago many of us had never heard of, now has a recruiting and marketing effort that competes with the Twin Cities metro area. Also consider that since the late Gov. Rudy Perpich we haven’t had a big idea governor focusing on jobs. He may have been nicknamed Governor Goofy, but he was bold and he brought a constant sense of aspiration and audacity to our attitude.

In the past, Minnesota enjoyed a strong of job market — from banking and financial services to industry related to natural resources in grains, lumber, paper and iron ore. In the most recent decade the medical device industry has sustained our growth.

However, the alarm for GOPers and the alert for DFLers is that the issue of jobs is not a partisan issue. All indications are that the civic leaders of both political parties are ready for leadership from the governor’s office that is laser focused on jobs and economic development.

And it’s not about criticizing Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It’s about a sense that it is time for Minnesota to make a big move to become the best state for a developing industry.

The energy of many groups — from the Itasca Project to the Urban Land Institute and Regional Council of Mayors — that are exploring our strengths and opportunities is a resource candidates in both parties should take advantage of and then proclaim a vision.

The curious opportunity for the candidates is that the business community is tired of Pawlenty’s schtick. They appreciate what he has done, but as noticed by moans and groans after his recent speech at the Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, he has lost his ability to sell a vision for big ideas for Minnesota.

While we may be inherently passive in our heritage, Minnesota has built its economy with bold ideas and innovation. Our next governor should sell the same boldness that has made 3M, Medtronic and Mayo Clinic pillars of what we are known for: global innovation.

In this era of hyper-partisanship, volatile electorates and ultra-safe campaign strategies, the candidate who risks the most on a bold vision for job growth in Minnesota will win — and might even be nicknamed Goofy.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 10/30/2009 - 11:56 am.

    Dakota Future, a countywide economic development organization in Dakota County, is working aggressively with business, education and government partners to grow jobs and attract investment in our corner of the metro area.

    We have adopted the Intelligent Community approach (www.intelligentcommunity.org) as our operating framework. We have submitted information to be designated as an International Intelligent Community and recently received notice that we have been named as a Smart 21 community.

    This framework has our Dakota County partners working to ensure world-class broadband; create, attract and support knowledge workers; stimulate innovation in business and government; address digital inclusion; and market and advocate our high technology economy.

    We are not waiting for candidates. Our leaders are moving forward today on this important initiative.

  2. Submitted by Jeremy Hanson on 10/30/2009 - 01:24 pm.

    I completely agree, Blois. Now, I have two links for you…




  3. Submitted by Tim Nelson on 10/30/2009 - 05:18 pm.

    There are job programs going in all 50 States, with the best ideas from both parties.

    None of them work.

    Governor Perpich timed it exactly right, but happy days are not here again, by any stretch of the imagination.

    Keep trying to do what doesn’t work, fine by me.

  4. Submitted by Leslie Davis on 10/31/2009 - 07:27 am.

    Leslie Davis is the JOBS candidate for governor. My proposals will create hundreds of thousands of PRIVATE sector jobs in transportation, energy and agriculture. No government money, no new taxes, no new rules. Just good jobs for all skill levels.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/31/2009 - 12:20 pm.

    The economic expansion was really fueled by housing. A huge amount of job creation was tied to housing. As well as a huge amount of consumption. Housing peaked in 2006.

    Between 2000 and 2007, US households led a national borrowing binge, nearly doubling their outstanding debt to $13.8 trillion. The pace was faster than the growth of their incomes, their spending, or the nation’s GDP. The amount of US household debt amassed by 2007 was unprecedented whether measured in nominal terms, as a share of GDP (98 percent), or as a ratio of liabilities to disposable income (138 percent). Currently American households for the first time since World War II reduced their debt outstanding. Which incidentally translates to lower levels of consumer spending.

    Over the past decade, rising US household spending has served as the main engine of US economic growth. From 2000 to 2007, US annual personal consumption grew by 44 percent, from $6.9 trillion to $9.9 trillion – faster than either GDP or household income. Consumption accounted for 77 percent of real US GDP growth during this period – high by comparison with both US and international experience.

    The empirical evidence points to the fact that the previous expansion and employment boom was fueled by a housing bubble and a huge amount of consumer spending fueled by both consumers and industry taking on debt.
    Consumers by using their homes as ATM machines as well credit card debt and industry over-leveraging itself. Clearly an unsustainable model for growth in our country. The evidence of that is the current economic circumstances in which we find ourselves.

    Absent another bubble of some sort or another (housing or financial) there is no quick easy way to achieve a sustainable model for growth in jobs.

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